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Cubs pitcher Matt Garza expected to be out at least a week with lat injury

Matt Garza

Matt Garza

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Updated: March 21, 2013 6:37AM

MESA, Ariz. — After an MRI exam revealed a mild strain in his lower left lat area, the Cubs said Tuesday that right-hander Matt Garza will be shut down for at least a week.

That could put his status for the start of the regular season in doubt.

General manager Jed Hoyer described the news as positive.

‘‘It’s safe to say it pushes back his first Cactus League start,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘What it means for the regular season, it’s clearly much too early to say, but we felt like it was really good news. It’s a mild strain. We do think it’ll be about a week, and he’ll be pain-free based on the MRI.

‘‘We’re optimistic. It was certainly a positive read from our standpoint.’’

Manager Dale Sveum is preparing for Garza to miss at least one exhibition start.

‘‘But everything else from there, hopefully, is fine for the start of the season,’’ Sveum said.

Garza, who spent the last two months of the 2012 season on the disabled list because of a “stress reaction” in his elbow, suffered the latest injury — where the lat meets the oblique on the left side — while throwing batting practice to teammates Sunday.

Shark in opener?

Even if Garza’s schedule of spring starts allows him enough time to avoid opening the season on the disabled list, the shorter prep time has the potential of taking him out of the Opening Day mix, which could assure Jeff Samardzija his first opening start.

Even if Samardzija doesn’t see it that way.

‘‘I know how Garza is,’’ Samardzija said. ‘‘I know he’s a competitor. I know how big of a year he wants to have. To count Garza out wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do.’’

Sveum said it’s too soon to make that call. In fact, he doesn’t plan to do it until closer to March 20 and has even mentioned the unlikely Edwin Jackson as a candidate.

‘‘I want the competition,’’ Samardzija said. ‘‘I want me and Garza and everyone to compete every [spring] start for that spot. It’s only going to make us all better.

‘‘Obviously, it was a given before anything else happened that I was going to go and give everything I had to try to earn that spot. And nothing’s changed.’’

Last goodbye

One of the few teams left that has split practice sites for spring training, the Cubs on Wednesday spend their final day of big-league camp at Fitch Park, then move up the street to their HoHoKam Stadium facility Thursday for the rest of the spring.

Next spring, the Cubs are scheduled to open their state-of-the-art spring facility in west Mesa, near the Scottsdale city line.

It was difficult to find any Cubs who were particularly saddened to be leaving Fitch behind, though Sveum said, ‘‘I’ll probably tear up.’’

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